Home News Explaining local elections in England and their wider significance

Explaining local elections in England and their wider significance

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Voters in England and Wales will vote for mayors, council members and police chiefs on Thursday. Of course, while the election will focus on local issues like trash collection and public safety, the vote is expected to have broader implications.

Local elections are essentially about who leads a community and ensures the delivery of certain public services. But many analysts believe the results of these elections will also serve as an important bellwether for public opinion across England and whether Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s embattled Conservatives have a chance of retaining power in a general election expected this fall.

The Conservatives face a fierce challenge from the opposition Labor Party, led by Keir Starmer.

Conservative win third consecutive election 2019, but dissatisfaction built up over 14 years in power—a period that included several Change of Prime Minister and political scandal — Big impact: Labor has held a double-digit lead in national opinion polls for more than a year.

About a third of England’s parliamentary seats will be up for grabs on Thursday, as will 10 mayoral seats in Britain’s major metropolitan areas, home to about a third of the country’s population.

The big question is how far Labor can move forward and how far the Conservatives might go backwards.

UK local elections have many quirks – turnouts tend to be relatively low, and smaller parties and independent candidates can perform exceptionally well. But Thursday’s vote includes races across England and Wales, and if the opposition is less apparent than polls suggest, the results should reveal that.

These elections are also a test of some new voting rules under the 2022 Electoral Act.For the first time, all voters will be required to show photo ID, some rights groups say May disproportionately impact marginalized communities.The same law also changes the rules for electing mayors and police chiefs: Those races are now First past posts, meaning each voter has one vote, and the candidate with the most votes in each constituency wins. This replaces a preferential voting method in which voters could indicate a second preference.

Labor and the Conservatives are campaigning candidates across the country, as are the centrist Lib Dems. The Green Party has also become increasingly competitive in some local elections. But rising rivals on the right – the Reform Party founded by Brexit campaigner Nigel Farage – are running relatively few candidates, especially for a party that currently ranks third in many polls. Word.

The most high-profile candidates are the three current mayors. On the Labor side there is Sadiq Khan, who is seeking to become London’s first person to serve three terms as mayor since the city-wide mayoral position was created in 2000. Ben Houchen in Tees Valley and Andy Street in the West Midlands. To win re-election, they may need to far outstrip their party, which both have done in the past.

A special council election or by-election will be held in Blackpool South. poor seaside area Conservative MP Scott Benton was there Stepped down due to lobbying scandal. Labor held the seat until 2019 and had strong hopes of regaining it.

Overall, voters will elect more than 2,500 city council members, with 107 councils holding scheduled elections and 48 councils holding by-elections. With so many seats to fill and a long list of candidates, some races will be watched more closely than others.

Professor Tony Travers, director of the Institute of Public Affairs at the London School of Economics, said he would be closely watching the races in North East Lincolnshire, Hartlepool and Dudley to gauge changes in sentiment. The so-called “red wall” – The Conservatives under Boris Johnson won the former Labor stronghold in 2019.

The economy, health and immigration have become three key issues of concern to British voters. According to a YouGov poll that tracks public sentiment. Still, in such elections, national priorities can sometimes be overshadowed by local issues and candidates’ personalities.

In May 2023, when the last local elections were held, the Conservatives occupied 33% of all parliamentary seats in England and the Labor Party 35%, becoming the party with the largest proportion of parliamentary seats for the first time since 2002.

The Institute for Government, an independent British think tank, noted that the Conservatives have been preparing for “a largely defensive election”, hoping to retain the handful of parliaments they control and retain seats in places where they are the largest party but lack seats. seats. Absolute majority.

Local elections in the UK are notoriously unpredictable, but most analysts agree the Conservatives will face a real challenge, especially since most of these elections are held in 2021, a time when the UK’s coronavirus vaccination program has The party’s high point after early success.

Sara B. Hobolt, a professor at the London School of Economics, said in a recent briefing that the Conservatives could lose as many as 500 parliamentary seats.

Labour’s five sitting mayors look likely to retain their seats – although Mr Khan’s final campaign in London was much tighter than polls suggested.

For the Conservatives, Mr Houchen has a strong following in the Tees Valley – he won 72.8% of the vote in 2021 – but appears to be struggling This time the competition is more intense, opinion polls show Mr Street slightly trailing his Labor rivals in the West Midlands. If both mayors step down, it could be a major blow to Sunak’s leadership.

Some ballots will be counted overnight Thursday, with results available early Friday, while others will be counted Friday or Saturday afternoon. While there will be some idea of ​​how the Conservatives fare by Friday afternoon, some key results will be slower to emerge.

In the closely watched mayoral race, only Tees Valley results are expected on Friday. Authorities in London and the West Midlands are both scheduled to publish results on Saturday afternoon.

The UK Electoral Commission is an independent body that oversees elections in the country. An in-depth guide to local elections, how to register voters, and other specific guidance.The Institute of Government elaborates Key things to note in the election.

The New York Times will also report on the results.

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